The thing about college basketball rankings is that none of them ever seem to agree with each other. With two losses last week and six losses in their last eight Games, Minnesota fell from the ranks of the AP Polls. However, they still find themselves No. 13 in the RPI. Then there’s Wisconsin who won a couple overtime Games at home last week and are once in again in the AP Top 25. ACCording to the RPI, they are No. 31.
The Badgers already beat the Gophers once, beat Illinois twice, beat the No. 1 team in the country on the road and are coming off a home win against No. 4 Michigan. The Gophers just lost to Illinois and have not had a win over a Big 10 team with a winning Conference record since Dec. 31, their one and only such win. In this case, it’s much easier to agree with the AP than with the RPI, but that’s not always how it goes.
Wisconsin will inevitably play a close Game, that’s just how they do it. They have already shown they can win on the road, so the fact that this Game is in Minneapolis should not fret them too much as their slow-it-down type of basketball works everywhere.
As for Minnesota, they are coming off a surprising and unfortunate home loss to Illinois that saw the Illini hitting 11 three-pointers. With a month to go in the season, this is very close to a must-win Game for the Gophers. As stated previously, they have very few wins against teams of high importance and after this Game, they only have two more chances to do that: at Ohio State and against Indiana. This Game against Wisconsin is probably their best chance at that high-level win.
In Wisconsin’s last two overtime wins, leading scorer Jared Berggren has come back into his usual form. He’s put in a total 29 points, 22 rebounds and eight blocks. Before those two Games, he averaged less than seven points per Game and never took more than 10 shots in a Game. In addition to Berggren picking up his Game, guard Ben Brust has been a big part of their current three-Game winning streak. Brust has been a viable three-pointer shooter all season long, but now he’s finding other ways to get points and is averaging over 17 PPG in those three Games. The last time these teams played was a lesson in bad offense in a 45-44 Badgers win. Berggren and Brust combined for only eight points and that will have to change if they want to win here. Also, look for Ryan Evans to be a big factor. He’s always been active on the boards and is consistently good for double-digit points.
The Gophers have a balanced offense as well, but there was one player who didn’t have a problem scoring in the last matchup, Andre Hollins. He had a Game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting in the low-scoring loss, almost half of what his team scored. His shot hasn’t been falling lately which is worrisome (under 37% in three straight Games) and might prove fatal if no one else can step up. On the other end of that, Austin Hollins only shot 1-for-10 against Wisconsin – his worst effort of the season — and is coming off a solid 16-point performance against Illinois. The good news for Minnesota is that senior forward Rodney Williams should be back for this Game after missing Sunday’s contest with a shoulder injury. He and Trevor Mbakwe will be very important if Gophers want to pull out the win. They’ll need to contain Berggren offensively and leave Evans off the offensive glass. If they can do that, their winning chances will increase a bit.
This will be another defensive battle, but don’t expect the total to be under 100 points again. These teams will shoot better and the Gophers will have the advantage as long as Williams is on the cOurt.
Predicted Score- Minnesota 61 Wisconsin 55